Wilmer Skoog scored his first AHL goal on Jan. 7.

In the moment it was a nice story for a rookie forward on an AHL contract who had spent nearly the whole two previous months in the ECHL.

In retrospect, it was the spark that ignited one of the most impressive goal-scoring runs in the AHL.

“When I scored that first one I was just really happy at first,” said Skoog. “Then I found a way to find the puck and find the net, which was good.”

From Jan. 7 to the end of the regular season, Skoog lit the lamp 22 times. That was more than any player in the league across that stretch except Adam Gaudette and Samuel Fagemo - who finished the season as first and second in the league’s goal-scoring race.

Skoog did the majority of his damage in tight while being extremely efficient - he only registered 94 shots on goal all season and finished with the third-highest shooting percentage in the AHL among qualified skaters.

“I like that, being around the net,” said Skoog. “I’m a little bigger and can battle in front of the net - whether it’s a tip or a rebound or just a screen on the goalie. It’s a good spot and it’s fun to be there where a lot of things happen.”

While the tools were inherently there for Skoog, getting to the point where he could impose his will on opponents was a journey.

“We always talk about maximizing your skillset and respecting the process,” said head coach Geordie Kinnear. “His process was going to the East Coast League. It kind of took him some time to find his way.”

Skoog appeared in 20 games for the Florida Everblades from Nov. 1 to Dec. 20. Navigating the emotions of being sent to the ECHL can be sometimes present a challenge for young players, but the 24-year-old’s drive never wavered.

“He honestly falls into the category of [Justin] Sourdif and Samo [Mackie Samoskevich],” said Kinnear. “They just love the game. They work hard, they master their craft after practice, they spend extra time in the gym. Good things are going to happen if there’s a skillset there, and I think you saw what his skillset is. Twenty two goals starting in January, that’s pretty impressive for a young kid.”

That run was impressive enough to earn the attention of the Florida Panthers, who signed Skoog to a one-year NHL deal for next season.

“I’m going to be quite honest with you, that’s what I’m in this for,” said Kinnear of seeing Skoog get rewarded. “I want them to achieve their dreams.”

For Skoog - an undrafted player who left college as a free agent last summer and signed an AHL contract with Charlotte - it’s both an accolade and a source of motivation to keep pushing.

“I’m really happy with that and proud,” he said. “I’m ready to have a good summer and work hard and come back and have a really good year next year.”

On paper, it looks like a switch flipped on Jan. 7. But to Skoog, his breakout was the result of everything he put into his journey.

“I was just working the whole time,” he said.